Barack Obama campaigned hard to end politics "as we know it" -- a kōan perfect for the picayune American mind obsessed with change. Too many Americans are blissfully ignorant about politics (one in three can't name the governor of their state, and three in 10 can't name the vice president of their country). They want to change politics as they don't know it. Maybe then they'll pay attention.
But then again, no. Attention requires effort requires sacrifice, and we're just not into that. What, we should search for information and actually read it? Exercise the big muscle between the ears? Maybe if you bring it to our (desk)(couch)(bed) and hand it to us with the really important stuff highlighted. So, you know, we don't have to work at it.
And slap a slogan on it. We love slogans. "Change We Can Believe In." "A Leader We Can Believe In." "Ignorance Is Strength."
The men who would lead our country appreciate and rush to the lowest common denominator. They talk good, high-minded games to the faithful in their flocks, but they cater to the people who know Peyton Manning but draw a blank on Vladimir Putin, the folks who can't name the Sunni branch of Islam (to them, probably, all Muslims are sweaty, swarthy terrorists).
They follow another time-honored kōan: Keep it simple. Don't bother with facts. Nugget-sized platitudes and zingers, hold the sauce. Don't discuss the difficulties in the Middle East, the complexities of the U.S. relationship with China, the fact that Americans pay half as much (or less) than Europeans at the pump. Don't make people think. Hurts. Brains.
John McCain comes to Springfield on Wednesday. He's supposed to talk about energy and the economy. Avid Republicans will eat the sweets (even though they don't especially care for the confectioner). Avid Democrats will naysay his offerings as leftovers from the Bush kitchen.
Everyone else will wonder why traffic around Missouri State University is bollixed up, but only if it's inconvenient to them. What they know about John McCain and Barack Obama would fill a bumper sticker but not a brochure. They will decide this election based on the last, best slogan they saw on a 30-second ad, sometime in late October.
"The darkness of insanity," as the immortal poet-philospher Declan Patrick MacManus put it. Don't bother looking for a switch. The strong and the trusted like it better with the lights out.